WASHINGTON — Some sports movies are undeniable classics.
As WTOP has seen from the voting all week, the top seeds have largely prevailed, with the bracket going nearly chalk the whole way. There are three No. 1 seeds in the Elite 8, and no seed lower than a four.
But what makes the greatest sports movie depends on who you are and what sport you love the most. It’s why votes like this — especially toward the end — can be so much fun.
For instance, just look at the variety of responses we got when surveying the newsroom about favorite sports movies. For the record, these submissions all came in on Monday, when we were still in the tournament’s opening round.
Chris Cichon, operations: “Any Given Sunday.” It probably won’t win this contest, but football is my favorite sport and I love the behind-the-scenes look of professional football players living the South Beach lifestyle.
Megan Cloherty, digital media: I think one of my favorites is “Field of Dreams.” I love being a part of how much Kevin Costner’s character cared about his vision for a field in the middle of nowhere, against all odds. “Remember the Titans” was fantastic. And as far as sports comedy, you can’t beat “Cool Runnings.” I love that movie.
Mike McMearty, senior news & sports director: The first sports movie that comes to mind, and my personal favorite, is “Rudy.” Rudy is based on a real story. Of course, Americans love an underdog and there is no bigger underdog than Dan Ruettiger. The movie features impossible obstacles, inspirational speeches, and an inspiring denouement! I’ve yet to watch the end without a significant amount of lachrymal fluid build-up.
George Wallace, sports reporter: I don’t have a favorite, but I’m going to say “Rocky,” “Field of Dreams,” “Remember the Titans” and “Hoosiers” are probably my top four.
Rob Woodfork, sports reporter: “White Men Can’t Jump.”
Jason Fraley, film critic: “Field of Dreams” is the one sports movie that makes me cry, because I’d give anything to play catch with my grandfather again. In addition to the father-son theme, the supernatural concept is incredibly unique, allowing the ghost of a disgraced sports legend (Shoeless Joe Jackson) to seek sanctuary in a ball diamond purgatory, then disappear into the Iowa cornfields. “Is this heaven?” “No, it’s Iowa.” Few monologues capture the detailed beauty of the game like Ray Liotta reminiscing about the “smell of the grass,” Burt Lancaster wishing he could “stretch a double into a triple,” and James Earl Jones enshrining baseball as our national pastime: “America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. People will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.”
“Raging Bull” is hands-down the best directed sports movie ever made. Martin Scorsese is masterful from start to finish, from the slow-motion shots showing Jake LaMotta’s paranoia, to the long continuous single-take following him from the locker room out to the ring; from the rapid cutting of in-ring action set to animal growls and popping flashbulbs, to that powerful pan along the ropes to spot of dripping blood. You won’t find more commitment to a role than Robert DeNiro chiseling his body for the fight scenes, then gaining 60 pounds to play the fat slob of a cheap nightclub owner who’s alienated everyone who ever loved him. I dare anyone to find more powerful acting than DeNiro punching his fists against a prison wall like the titular “raging bull” he is. Pietro Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana” is the icing on the cake.
As for me, it’s all about Bull Durham. It was my favorite sports movie before I ever worked in the minor leagues, and even more so after it. No sports film combines authenticity with such great acting, compelling characters and a heartfelt story line quite like it. And the theme is one we can all appreciate — a man past his prime, who never achieved quite what he thought he might, grasping to his final shreds of hope only to find new life through love, friendship and the game.
There’s a reason it’s the No. 1 seed in the baseball region.
Share your favorites in the comments, and vote on our Elite 8 matchups until 6 p.m. Thursday.